There’s a lot to remember about this National Writing Project Conference in New York City. For the first time I had more presentations than I could really enjoy. Actually, I enjoyed the moments of each workshop presentation but the preparations took their toll on my sleep, my peace of mind and add to that, the tech conference just the week before, made it essential to place the events in their place in relation to life after: the day after, the week after, Thanksgiving…
On Wednesday night Tuvia dropped me off at the Hoboken train station and with just one relatively small suitcase, my computer and shoulder bag, I joined the commuters returning to NYC from a hard day of work in Hoboken. It was easy, amazingly easy and fast getting into the city and riding to 23rd St. and sure I could have hailed a cab. I tried actually, but the air was fresh and my bags were manageable for walking with the natives. I walked a bit more than I had to, but I arrived as Tom, Mary, Kathy and Jackie were milling in the lobby tired from a very long bus ride in from New Paltz. They had hit very slow traffic coming in and felt the frustration and exhaustion that I escaped from my end. We shared a small elevator up to our respective floors and as I entered my room, I wondered how I would be feeling about it on Saturday morning when I would be leaving this very sparse space.
For that first night we were fresh and off for a nice dinner together. I was too lazy to get my camera. Damn, now. It was a great meal,but I was distracted, wondering about our first workshop with Mary, Rebecca, and Kerri, who had been meeting without me and I wondered how I would fit in. They were confident about my role. I hoped so. It was great to be with this group as we shared lots of wonderful foods that I had moved away from in my efforts to drop an excess of pounds milling around the center of my body. I had had some early success, but judging from this first dinner off the plan, it didn’t look good that I would hold my initial reduction. Oh well.
After dinner, Mary was ready to work. Rebecca and Kerri were waiting back at the hotel for us but the rest of us were tired. We met down in the lobby. Kathy and Jackie and Tom went their own ways. Mary had worked on the power-point and I just uploaded it to my computer. My role was to play my SI ’07 DVD, Michelle’s piece to introduce her to the group but I wondered how I would fit into the larger fabric of our hour. I left the group wondering and returned to my room and played with my NFA powerpoint just a bit more. I had more control there. Of course I didn’t expect to sleep much and at least I did have a tv to help me get something, but as usual not much.
The next morning the rain held off and we walked with Jackie over to the Javits Center. As we entered the NWP space below, there were very few people there with us. Karen McComas was my first TM’06 connection and let me know that she was looking forward to our session. NO PRESSURE! Bob was already in our space with his equipment set up. He announced that he had 15 minutes to share that he could expand into 30 and wondered what would fill the rest of our three hours. Our team was speechless and more than prepared with our third of the workshop. Every minute was accounted for and we had called the starting slot. I just needed to make sure that the tech all worked. Bob was good about moving his computer off the platform and I did a check with his equipment. The room was large, the lights were bright, glaring and we were informed that there would be no way to control the lights and our session was filled, 70?
I was torn, hoping that I could present with my team and then disappear to slip into Kevin’s digital workshop that he was sharing with some of our TM’06 network. He was planning to present my ABC Seeds movie and our collaboration work. Two places at the same time? And Kevin’s room was way down the hall.
The tables in our empty space filled quickly. Ellen Brinkley from the 3rd coast site arrived to start and end the session and as the introductions finished we began. I had everyone move to writing and sharing and we moved to Michelle. Of course what’s tech without a glitch and Bob did pull me out of my hole by switching our his speakers for mine and my piece played with all its elements. As I got my voice and rhythm and began through the early slides to explain our evolution from demo the inquiry the group moved with us. Our team showed that their preparations were effective as Kerri and Rebecca and Mary documented our Michelle case study with powerful language and Rebecca’s metaphoric theater concept.It was clear that the other two presenters were not thinking about their presentation with the same sense of collaboration.
I was able to sneak out and find my way into Kevin’s room, during a break and enjoy the experience of being in the audience and watching his large group watch my DS piece. I was sitting next to one of our unknown ABC collaborators. Rodney. I would know that voice anywhere. L is for Lying. I was flying as Kevin shared his moment with me. I left on a cloud flying back to our session to share the wrap up with our team. What a way to usher in this NYC conference! Outside in the hallway, familiar faces passed by and stopped to share a hug and warm reconnection. How rich it felt.
Outside it was raining with a vengeance and I didn’t want to ruin my new shoes and all I really needed was a snack and found it downstairs, a small bag of pretzels and a diet coke and just some time to sit quietly before the afternoon session.
In the afternoon session I joined Tom and Martha and stayed focused with the Janet Malink from California who I remembered from our road trip to the New England weekend. Connecting high stakes tests with what our project offered, was the elephant in the room and for the first two hours I was involved in the session but lost a bit of energy for the last group. Oh well, it was good enough and we had nice handouts to take with us.
It would have been nice to travel back to a hotel closer to the first NWP afternoon social for the and connect with some Chico friends, but instead, I joined my HVWP colleagues and walked back to our hotel on 27th St, The Gershwin ( a la George?) and that was great too. I walked with Karen and talked politics. Just a bit of time to continue playing with the power point for workshop 2 My powerpoint obsession was coming together. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from a team I had left behind and now that workshop one was done, I could spend more time worrying about workshop 2.
It was a fun dinner at Blue Smoke with the Vermont WP although without Julia it was a drag. I did connect with Tish and Nancy and those who sat near by: Kathy, Jackie, Trace etc. By 11 I was full and exhausted and ready to spend more time working my powerpoint, just cleaning it up and thinking about what I would have to do to make it clear that this was a successful collaboration in its creation, even if as history I was pretty sure it was rewritten without me.
The next morning Martha and I met and traveled up to the Marriot for an early morning meeting with Judy’s ELL group, planning for an April tech conference. I loved the challenge that Judy offered me to digitally document the event. As we began I wondered why some of the workshop leaders were asked to lead workshops in areas they had very little or no experience, but I focused on my own issue of leading both a digital storytelling workshop with Martha and document the event. From my own experience, I know that’s impossible. I spoke up and everyone agreed. It was an interesting group. Judy, Martha, Paul Oh, Joe Bellino, others I didn’t know. Elyse from the NWP joined us and I was even more interested. We continued to plan out the day. I offered a focus on reading and crafting that work in the tech presentation. It was interesting and with that we were moving on to the general session and a farewell to Richard Sterling.
Lunch plans with my HVWP people and surprise, it would be a John’s Pizzeria where I would be at the end of night, meeting with Kevin and TL’s. Okay, I wanted to be sure where it was and I was wishing it was already the end of the day, but lots more had to happen before I would be back at 9 pm. It was actualy a pleasure, even though I was ALWAYS distracted. I spent lunch talking with Eric about supporting his inservice work at Fallsburgh.
When I arrived back at Marriott and found our small presentation room the whole NFA team already there: Nelson and Carmen had arrived and the equipment was up and running. Would there be room for the pp I had worked on so hard? Sure, Nelson was prepared for my computer and helped me set up. What a pleasure it was to be working with him again. A shame, I didn’t see a way to recreate my collaboration with him. Our group was around 20. We had Kevin and Joe and Juan and very interested NWP participants. It was a challenge. I presented the structure of partnership, the role of our site in this collaboration and my slides reflected that. As Martha began to talk about her work in the classroom, I realized that it was my mission to turn I recollections to we I began to take advantage of my moderator position and gently documented our collaboration even with Carmen when she shared the district budget for the project equipment but left out left out the contract with our site and my role as consultant. It was a good presentation. We ran out of time. As the session ended Carmen invited both Judy and me to join the NFA team for a Cuban lunch and I could not say no. Judy did. I felt bad about not being around to attend the workshop Kevin was presenting with my bud, Lynne, but I couldn’t say no to Carmen and Nelson and Martha, and I didn’t want to. I needed closure for this project and got it in a very authentic way with comfortable conversations, especially with Nelson. This could be the authentic end to this chapter.
From lunch it was off to the Path train on 33rd and Tuvia in Hoboken at the synagogue. And there I came back out of conference mode and tried hard to give Tuvia my attention. I was not good at being present. I watched the hands on my watch move and tried hard to prevent my eyes from closing for more than a few seconds at a time.
By 8:30 Tuvia made sure we were back in the car and off to John’s pizza for the dinner I was looking forward to and by 9:05 I was entering the pizzeria again and warmly welcomed by our TM06 group. I reconnected with Jason, Kevin, Lynne, Cynthia, Tonya, Chris etc. We shared pizza and a salad and I held out until 11 and then everyone faded well, Lynne did lead a group to the Empire State Building and I joined in for as a long as I could. I hugged and waved them on and I got a cab back to the hotel and started breathing. Just one more night, just one more session to prepare for and I didn’ t have much to do.
I was back in that dismal room by 11:45 and with the TV on, I couldn’t even find the energy to open my computer. I WAS TIRED! I slept the best. But by 5:30 AM I couldn’t sleep anymore . Still more to do with one last power point. I moved well through the remaining slides and Mary was up and calling and ready for coffee and a bagel. Trace was on her way back from Columbia with her car. We were on our way to the final workshop planning. YES!
I showed, packed and caught an elevator to the lobby and we were off to breakfast and a final prep. It was my job now, as tech team coordinator to support Trace and Tracey and Julie. With hotel ends finished, I was out of that room, never to return to it AGAIN!
Back at the Javits Center we found the room, large and filled with empty chairs. Julie and Tracey were waiting for us and I worked to support their preparations. It was hard to get connected to the internet even with wireless payment. I watched Trace lose it for the first time, but I was focused to support her and the others. Participants from the NCTE now, joined us. Soon the room was filled, 50, 60 people. I began trying hard to warm up the crowd and get everyone comfortable and reflective with writing into the session and then a burst of sharing. The pump was primed and the team, with and without the internet made themselves relevant and grounded in their classroom work. Julie had no way to show her wikis and moved without the visual. She was really fantastic. Trace did get to show a visual of her Scarlet online blog and I was able to show a ds from my NFA work. The group applauded Lisbet and answered questions about the project. Tracey began with her professional packet for the group and ended us well. Wow what a wonderful group.
Mary offered professional readings and BRAVO completed with a bang. I was DONE and feeling satisfied. Hopefully after a snack lunch with Mary and Trace, Tuvia would arrive soon to take me back to my life out of NYC. I was ready to visit New York as a visitor once again.